ASU alumni erect Pat Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium

The statue is the subject of a new ASU football tradition

Sun Devil football fans may have noticed a new tradition this season — the players touch a statue of Pat Tillman before taking the field.

A team of ASU alumni erected the new statue on the north end of Sun Devil Stadium, where it stands as a centerpiece in the Tillman Tunnel. 

Pat Tillman played football for ASU as a linebacker before he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals. He later left his football career to serve in the U.S. Army. He died from friendly fire on April 22, 2004 in Afghanistan. 

ASU graduates Jeff Carol Davenport and Art Pearce played key roles in the development of the project.

The statue was funded in March and unveiled to the public on Aug. 30, but the process started in Nov. 2016, when the athletics department and coach Todd Graham's approval kickstarted the proposal.

Art Pearce, a third generation ASU graduate, funded the project and said he approached Sun Devil Athletics with a desire to participate in the remodeling of Sun Devil Stadium.

“When I heard Coach Graham was passionate about having a statue of Pat Tillman in the Pat Tillman tunnel, I thought this would be something really nice to do for ASU,” Pearce said. “It’s a tribute to all the ASU students who have have attended here and to all the veterans because of Pat Tillman.”

Pearce said that although the symbol of Pat Tillman carries great meaning for ASU, he is also an icon that can be appreciated throughout the whole state of Arizona.

“Pat Tillman crosses all barriers, even for people living in Tucson that don’t particularly care for Arizona State University,” Pearce said. “This is bigger than the rivalry. This is something that everyone in Arizona can enjoy and admire.”

The image of Pat Tillman is inspiring, and it should push everybody on the field to do their best, Pearce said. 

“Pat wasn’t a very big man," Pearce said. "He had to play harder and smarter because of his size. It’s a testimony to Pat and his family, also to future football players who run onto the field.”

Pearce said that he was lucky to work with Davenport, an art teacher at Sandra Day O’Connor high school, who was the artist for the Pat Tillman statue. 

“Art (Pearce) came to me and asked me if I will be willing to do a Pat Tillman, and I said, 'absolutely, that would be amazing,'” Davenport said. 

Although there was limited amount of time to work on the entire project, Davenport was thrilled to be the one to design and create it, she said. 

“I get pretty emotional about it because he was an amazing man,” Davenport said. “I thought that somebody would get to do a project, but it wouldn’t be me, and I was so excited that it actually became me.”

Davenport said she is excited and honored to start a new tradition at ASU.

“Art said that all the major universities have their mascot somewhere on campus so that after they graduate they have an image with the mascot, but ASU doesn’t have that,” Davenport said. “I can say that I got my piece there, and it's part of ASU tradition from now on.”

Exercise and wellness sophomore Kayla Acedez said she was excited to see the statue on gameday. 

“When I first saw the football players touch the Pat Tillman statue, I felt a sense of happiness,” Acedez said. “I thought it was amazing to see a new game time ritual honoring a Sun Devil and an American hero at the start of every game.”

Acedez said because the Pat Tillman statue was created by ASU alumni, the symbol is even more meaningful as it shows fellow students recognizing the achievements of one another and giving back to the school.

“I didn't know at first that an ASU art alumni actually created the Pat Tillman statue,” Acedez said. “I feel that this makes the statue even more symbolic to the ASU community.”

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